“The Little Town with a Heart of Stone”



Having been born in a small provincial town in Portugal, I soon forgot the slow pace and rhythmic way of life of my birthplace. When, as a small boy, my family moved, first to Lisbon and then to Europe’s busiest and most vibrant city, London.

There it was that I grew up, lived three or four lives in the space of one, living life at a frenetic pace, hardly ever stopping to enjoy even a moment of it.

Fast food, fast life, fast death. In London everything is very fast.

‘Slow Down! Before you fall down!’ my mum often shouted at my back as I ran off in another blustering of youth.

It’s enough to say that I was in desperate need of slowing down when I moved here.

So it came to be that this past June I moved to a charming little town in Lower Silesia, Poland.

A little town called Strzegom.

At first glance I found nothing particularly remarkable about this city. Not the fact that the first historical reference to it dates back to 1155. That’s not very old by European standards.

My home town of Evora for instance, is at least one thousand years older than that.

Not the fact that the famous battle of Hohenfriedberg happened in 1745 close to the city. A battle that became one of the defining events of Frederick the Greats’ reign. It was then he routed both the Saxon and then Austrian armies, during the war of Austrian secession.

But that’s not unique. A great many small cities in Europe can lay claim to a famous battleground nearby. Such is our long and bloody history.

I was not even fazed by the large church of Saints Peter and Paul, who incidentally are the main figures in the city’s coat of arms, (St. Peter holds the key to the city and St. Paul holds the sword). The church is indeed large, old and beautiful, and I plan to find out much more about it, but so are a great many churches throughout the continent. No, none of the above really called to me, or made me curious. What really caught my attention in the first place were the many stone sculptures and plaques dotted around the city. So much so that I set out to find out why there were so many in such a small city. It was thus that I found out this city’s best kept secret. Strzegom is anything but a sleepy country town. This tiny city is actually a busy and important centre of industry. It houses one of the biggest companies in Poland and features prominently in a list of top European cities (by company sales).

It is the capital of the Polish stone industry. And just what product is at the root of this?

It is granite.

Strzegom is a city with granite at its heart, and I mean that literally. The little town with a ‘Heart of Stone’.

Around this city are numerous granite producing mines and stone working companies.

About One Thousand Nine Hundred tons of the stuff was mined in this area last year.

That’s a lot of granite by anyone’s standards!

The curious thing is that very little of the stuff finds its way into the local markets. With the exception of tomb stones, a surprisingly small amount of the area’s most precious commodity actually ends up here.

But who am I to criticize?

I immediately fell in love with the place. From my first visit in February 2008 to the time I moved here in June of this year,  I got to like everything about this town, the quaint shops, the lack of crime, the cute pastel colours of the buildings in the main square,  the unhurried but efficient way with which locals go about their lives, the relaxed pace…

Since I’ve been here I have met many wonderful people, who have shown me generosity, compassion, and the real meaning of dignity and hospitality, a word incidentally that is seldom used in reference to London. Not that Londoners are inhospitable. No, not at all… they just don’t have the time.

It is easy to be happy in this city. People actually say hello to you in the street!

I have a theory that the colder the climate of a place is, the warmer the hearts of its inhabitants, and since I come from a very hot country I must have a heart made of ice. But the ice has melted.

This charming little city simply melted it, for I, unlike Strzegom, do not possess a ‘Heart of Stone’.